Article | Kauffman Foundation Research Report | January 2008

Entrepreneurship and Urban Success: Toward a Policy Consensus

by Zoltan J. Acs, Edward L. Glaeser, Robert E. Litan, Lee Fleming, Stephan J. Goetz, William R. Kerr, Steven Klepper, Stuart S. Rosenthal, Olav Sorenson and William C. Strange

Abstract

Like all politics, all entrepreneurship is local. Individuals launch firms and, if successful, expand their enterprises to other locations. But new firms must start somewhere, even if their businesses are conducted largely or exclusively on the Internet. Likewise, policymakers at local and state levels increasingly recognize that entrepreneurship is the key to building and sustaining their economies' growth. Although this is a seemingly obvious proposition, it represents something of a departure from past thinking about how local, state, or regional economies grow. Historically, state and local policymakers have put their energies into trying to attract existing firms from somewhere else, either to relocate to a particular area or to build new facilities there. Such smokestack chasing - or, in this cleaner era, simply firm chasing - often has degenerated into what is essentially a zero-sum game for the national economy. When one city or state offers tax breaks or other financial inducements to encourage firms to locate new plants or headquarters, and succeeds, some other city or state loses out in the process. Local, state, and regional economic development centered on entrepreneurship, however, is a fundamentally different phenomenon. The formation and growth of new firms, especially those built around new products or ways of doing things, wherever this occurs, is clearly a positive sum game, not just for the locality, but for the nation as a whole. This essay provides a guide to policymakers and citizens to what is known about the effects of various local and state policies aimed at fostering entrepreneurially driven growth. There is also much we do not know; thus, the essay identifies subjects that require further research.

Keywords: Business Headquarters; Business Startups; Development Economics; Economy; Entrepreneurship; Policy; Taxation; Growth and Development Strategy; Product Development; Business Processes; Expansion; Internet;

Citation:

Acs, Zoltan J., Edward L. Glaeser, Robert E. Litan, Lee Fleming, Stephan J. Goetz, William R. Kerr, Steven Klepper, Stuart S. Rosenthal, Olav Sorenson, and William C. Strange. "Entrepreneurship and Urban Success: Toward a Policy Consensus." Kauffman Foundation Research Report (January 2008).